Here’s yet another rave review. This time’s it’s the multi-talented Italian turned Jamaican reggae artist Alborosie’s latest 16 track set Sound the System, on which he plays almost every instrument himself. He’s a do it yourself kind of guy that also writes most of his own material and produces himself.
Vocal duties are however shared with a number of other artists, including Ky-Mani Marley on a remake of Bob Marley’s Zion Train, Italian reggae star Nina Zilli on the jazzy ska flavored Goodbye, sweet singing Kemar on the beautiful There is a Place, Nature on the catchy Warrior and veteran vocal harmony trio The Abyssinians on Give Thanks, a track on which they provide harmonies sang in Amharic, the sacred language of Ethiopia.
Sound the System is Puppa Rosie’s fifth album and has a classic, yet contemporary, sound heavily influenced by early 80’s dancehall in a Sly & Robbie style and fashion. He uses live instruments and analogue recording techniques to achieve his vintage sound which carry plenty of references to eras when Bob Marley, Yellowman, Burning Spear and Barrington Levy ruled the charts.
Alborosie is a virtual virtuoso at writing bubbling and boisterous riddims, catchy melodies and hooks and righteous and rebellious lyrics, but without being preachy or moralizing. His more humorous side can be heard in soundsystem anthems and burial tunes like Who Run the Dance, Shut U Mouth and Rock the Dancehall.
Sound the System is a diverse and passionate reggae cocktail by an artist that knows how to create hit songs with a message.
Abyssinians performing live at Uppsala Reggae Festival 2010. Photo by Stefan Gunnarsson, Reggaefoto.se
The second day of Uppsala Reggae Festival was a night of highs and lows, from big acts to smaller ones. But the night belonged to the reggae veterans – from Abyssinians and Bunny Wailer who have been in the business since the 60’s to Midnite and Peetah and Gramps Morgan, who started in the later half of the 80’s.
The elderly gentlemen behind monster tune Satta Massagana made for Friday’s high point. Their concert was backed by a young and hungry band with live saxophone and trombone who treated the audience to lots of great music from their well filled treasure chest, for example Declaration of Rights with its haunting organ and three versions of Satta Massagana. The last version bursts out into a bass pumping percussion extravaganza by Bernard Collins and the Manning brothers.
The big disappointment was VI roots reggae pioneers Midnite. Their concert began ten to seven, ten minutes ahead of schedule. This probably surprised many of the attendants, and although some rushed to the area, it never got crowded below the stage. This was perhaps also due to Midnite’s lack of energy, humour and vitality. Front man and lead singer Vaughn Benjamin seemed distant and may as well have been sitting in his car singing songs of freedom, oppression and propaganda to himself. Sure, Midnite’s music is introvert and unusually monotonous, which makes it difficult to convey live. However, it doesn’t get better when they insist on playing all their songs at full-length, which means no more than ten songs in 70 minutes. Not surprising, the audience decided to do something else.
This evening’s biggest surprise was Voicemail, a dancehall outfit on European tour to honour their recently deceased member O’Neil Edwards. The group tours with talented songstress Alaine who charmed the audience for the first part of the concert. When Voicemail took the stage they showed amazing energy and skilled showmanship, and got the entire audience to follow almost every move or call and response they made. It actually seemed like a very few wanted to leave the tent scene when Bunny Wailer entered the main stage.